According to Ken Rosenthal, Adam Jones is looking for a 5 year deal. Apparently Ken was able to say that with a straight face, because Adam Jones simply isn’t the kind of player who deserves a five year deal. Yes, he hits for power compared to other center fielders, but is it a wise investment for the Baltimore Orioles to give Jones the extension he’s looking for? Let’s take a look.
As center field is considered an up the middle position, the priority should be placed on defence. Jones is typically considered a below average defender, ranking between -4.3 and -8.7 over the past three seasons according to UZR. He has a fairly strong arm, but his lack of range is very costly in the outfield. While it’s possible he could show improvement in the future, he’s been playing center field for four seasons now, and it’s unlikely that he’ll become an asset defensively going forward.
In order to make up for his poor glove, Jones needs to be an above average hitter. However he’s much closer to the middle of the pack, ranking 13th among center fielders in wRC+ at 110. What this means is that while he’s 10% above league average, he’s no better than an averaging hitting center fielder. Additionally Jones ranked 13th in WAR among center fielders, with a career high 2.9. So far, he just doesn’t seem like the kind of player you want to offer a significant contract to.
Now, you might be wondering how a player who hit 25 home runs, especially from an up the middle position like center field, can be considered an average hitter. And it’s a good question. As previously mentioned, Jones hits for more power than the average center fielder, which is a valuable skill to have. However, he rarely takes a walk, which limits his upside as a hitter. Getting on base (or not making outs) is critical to being an above average hitter, and Jones career 319 OBP limits his offensive potential. Additionally, his home park Camden Yards is one of the top 8 parks to hit a home run in according to ESPN. Playing 81 games here inflates his home run total, making him look like a better power hitter than he is.
Jones has been one of the Orioles best players over the past few years, but that speaks volumes about the lack of quality players the Orioles have employed at the major league level. This season he was their third best player behind Matt Wieters and JJ Hardy. It would make sense to offer Jones a long term deal if he was the kind of player who the Orioles could build around, but he hasn’t developed into that kind of player.
All of this isn’t to say that Adam Jones is a bad player. It’s just important to recognize how valuable he is, especially when one tries to determine if he is worthy of a 5 year deal. Jones is an average hitting center fielder with a poor glove, and the end result is a slightly above average player. A useful, complimentary piece on a team, but not a guy who should be signed to a five year deal. While the Orioles might not have any strong center field prospects on the horizon, they would be wise to trade Adam Jones now instead of offering him a lengthy contract extension.